One of the most impactful ways to promote sustainable development in coffee households and producer communities is to drive change for women!

Strengthening their rights, supporting their participation in household decision-making, incorporating them into farmer organizations, and empowering their knowledge supports families and communities to grow stronger. Thus, I strongly believe that gender programming also needs to be incorporated into any support strategies of NGOs, roasters, traders and government services for effectively addressing climate change in particular at the level of farm households and rural communities. As there are 20 million farmer families producing coffee there are also 20 million women that are ready to perform their role. Let’s make it happen!

Most of the coffee production worldwide is not mechanized. In many regions and in particular in most of Africa, women can do up to 90% of the field and harvest work.

A survey of the International Trade Center indicates that this is a ‘typical’ role for women in the coffee industry globally. They are rarely involved in higher value-generating activities. Income from their family’s coffee field is mostly channeled through the men without a common decision-making process at the household level which means without the involvement of the other family members.

Within the initiative for coffee&climate (c&c) we are looking at many coffee regions that are facing negative effects of the changing climate: higher temperatures and water stress lead to lower productivity and often also inferior product quality. Not only is it getting more demanding to cope with effects on the crop, women in rural areas also face additional challenges. Besides working in the field they are responsible for most household related tasks. To give an example: women in rural areas of Southern Tanzania spend up to three hours per day for fetching water and for collecting firewood. At the same time water is getting scarce. Deforestation makes it more difficult to collect firewood in addition to causing distortions to the water regime in many areas.

This gives rise to the questions: How to strengthen the role of women in coffee production? How to increase the impact of women in the decision making process? How can we close the gap between gender and climate change in coffee production?

With our global work at Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung and as implementing agent of c&c we are addressing gender equity and promote the introduction of practical and time-saving technologies such as clean and efficient cooking stoves, solar energy and domestic rainwater harvesting that are addressing women’s “time poverty”, increasing the household’s members’ health, helping them to save money and protecting the environment simultaneously. Incorporating the gender approach into climate projects, therefore, goes far beyond climate-smart practices on the household level. The saved time allows women a more frequent participation in training activities and to become drivers for the use and further development of climate-smart production practices.

Joint decision taking within households balances the distribution of tasks and strengthens their economic performance by upgrading capacities, managing financial resources more efficiently, building up assets and stabilizing income streams all of which are crucial elements of strategies for coping with climate change and strengthening resilience.

We also think that it is important to include programming efforts for promoting a stronger participation and integration of women into management processes and structures in coffee farmer organizations and cooperatives. This significantly strengthens operations, transparency, networking and service orientation of these organizations to their members.

c&c is working with coffee producing families in Central America, Brazil, Tanzania, and Vietnam where we support coffee households to assess risks associated with climate change and to strengthen their ability to adopt better production practices and more resilient livelihood strategies.

Enhancing the understanding of farming as a family business with equitable decision taking and specific female coaching has proven to amplify our project effects. And when it comes to climate-related actions, the impact on the situation of women, on project results and adaptation to and mitigation of climate change is even receiving a further boost. By that, we close a significant gap in sustainability programs.

At the initiative for coffee&climate we are therefore expanding the gender-focused climate component. We want to support lifting the efficiency and impact of coping strategies at household and community level and we want to assess together with farming households and farmer organizations how to further develop approaches for enhancing their efforts to prop up resilience.

Our public partner, the Swedish International Development Agency, has granted us with some resources for starting corresponding activities in two locations, Tanzania and Trifinio in Central America. While we are looking forward to engaging with the producer families, communities and farmer organizations we would also like to open up the intervention and invite like-minded partners to cooperate, to jointly gain new experiences and to learn together how to collectively improve. Knowledge will be systematized and documented as case studies or tools to be shared sector-wide via the coffee&climate toolbox.

Financial contributions are welcome and will be leveraged by three with the support of our public partner.

Follow Michael Opitz on LinkedIn.

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